The investigation and processing of grievances is one of the union representative's most important functions. However, during such grievance work the union representative is sometimes disciplined or discharged by management for some alleged impropriety in his actions.
Research of cases published in Labor Arbitration Reports reveals that discipline and discharge cases concerning a representative's grievance work is second only to violations regarding work stoppages as the most frequent area involving arbitration. This frequency is evidently due to the fact that a union steward spends much of his time in grievance work and to the many rules regulating his actions in this function which he may deliberately or inadvertently violate.
Arbitration cases involving union representatives and the processing of grievances fall into two major categories. First are those cases which deal with the determination of exactly what is to be accepted as grievance work. The limits of such work—usually spelled out precisely in the contract—are quite uncertain in practice. The other classification contains cases concerning reasonable limitations over the actions of union representatives in their grievance work. For example, limitations concerning absences, especially when they are related to processing grievances, are a frequent issue in discipline and discharge cases of union stewards.